I’ve never considered myself a particularly vengeful person, but over the years I have come to enjoy a good revenge flick. The good guy/gal wins inasmuch as they are able given the loss that led them to seek vengeance in the first place. The bad guys/gals get theirs, whether financially, physically, or by being outed for the scum that they are. Some level of cosmic balance is restored. Evil doesn’t always win.
That said, the characters seeking vengeance aren’t always the nicest. Two of my favorite revenge films are JOHN WICK and the KILL BILL duology. In both cases, the protagonist is a reformed assassin who tried to walk the straight and narrow only to be dragged back into the murk by denizens of their former life. The films are violent and profanity-laced, yet stylish. In JOHN WICK, the assassin culture holds an edgy attraction with its strictly enforced code of behavior, refuge hotel, even its own currency. KILL BILL’s female assassins aren’t as regimented, but each is stylish in her own way, powerful, and utterly ruthless.
Not all revenge films are gory cussfests. KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS, a 1949 British film, features a protagonist who, while bent on avenging the mistreatment of his mother, is also a decidedly unreformed cad, albeit a charming one. The film also features Alec Guinness in multiple roles, which is reason enough to watch.
A film that’s quite different in tone from the others mentioned here is INSIDE MAN, a 2006 film directed by Spike Lee. There are no stylish killers or wronged relatives. The events and characters are more everyday. I’ve watched it several times, and am still not 100% sure whether vengeance was the original motivation for the crime that drives the story. Suffice it to say that there was grave injustice done, and the wheels of vengeance set in motion. A satisfying conclusion for the characters and the audience.
Do you have favorite tales of revenge?